AMD releases Pacifica specification for virtualization

AMD released the details behind its Pacifica virtualization technology ahead of a similar launch expected from Intel.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) on Wednesday released the technical details behind its "Pacifica" virtualization technology, which will help IT managers create partitioned servers or run multiple operating systems on AMD chips starting next year.

Virtualization technology is already used to allow applications that would normally require separate servers to run side-by-side on a single server without interference. VMware and XenSource, among other companies, create software that allows users to create virtual operating environments.

However, the performance of these software programs will be greatly enhanced by dedicated hardware resources for virtualization, AMD said. The company will change its desktop and server processors and the integrated memory controller on those chips to accommodate the Pacifica technology in the first half of 2006. AMD has already released a dual-core Opteron server chip, and the X2 dual-core desktop chip is expected to be released at Computex next week.

Intel also plans to bring virtualization technology to server and desktop chips this year. The company's 945G chipset for desktop processors will be released this month with support for VT, Intel's virtualization technology, Intel executives said last week. Intel's Itanium 2 server processors will receive the enhancement later this year, and its Xeon server chips and Pentium M mobile chips will ship with virtualization technology next year.

AMD and Intel's approaches to virtualization are expected to be software compatible, just as happened with their slightly different versions of 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set. AMD published its approach to 64 bits well before Intel confirmed it was working on the technology, but Intel's version of the extensions lacked two instructions that AMD added later in the process. The missing two instructions had no effect on software compatibility.

Intel and AMD do not have a formal approach for sharing their technology to ensure compatibility, but they do have a cross-licensing agreement. Since software developers have no interest in creating separate Intel or AMD versions of their products, the technologies based on the x86 instruction set that emerge from each company wind up looking very similar in how they interface with existing software.

Developers interested in finding out more about the Pacifica specifications can download information from AMD's Web site at http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/

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